Cravings! Hunger Pangs!


I’m starving!!!!

This is how we often feel when we get these hunger pangs and cravings. Your body is signaling you, your interpretation of this signal is “I need food”. Let’s spend a few minutes breaking down and understanding better how to accurately interpret these signals. 

The first thing to keep in mind is that our bodies operate on a cycle or clock known as a Circadian Rhythm. What does this have to do with your hunger?

If you eat lunch now, 12pm, your body will produce a hunger hormone called Ghrelin. Ghrelin makes you hungry enough to finish eating your meal, and sometimes overeat if our hormones are imbalanced. Ghrelin also makes a reminder notification on your Circadian Rhythm. This means that at approximately 12pm tomorrow, Ghrelin will release again to remind you that {Hey it’s time to eat so that you don’t starve!}.

I know, it’s hard to imagine in our modern society that we would ever need a reminder to eat. Picture this, I bet there is a scenario that comes to mind when you got so busy at work that you forgot to eat. Or maybe you were in the process of moving, you are unloading a truck and you remember “Did I eat today? I’m hungry”. This is why Ghrelin exists. It’s a survival mechanism to ensure that you remember to eat. Other mechanisms perform the same function. To remind you to sleep at a certain time, or perhaps have a bowel movement, or even go exercise. Your body will remind you of your habits in order to keep you on track. 

Guess what?!?! Have you ever set an alarm or calendar reminder, then decided to hit snooze? maybe you cancel that plan, maybe you just delay your preparations or make new plans. Acknowledging a reminder doesnt meant that you have to do what it says… It YOUR decision. Decide whether you want to eat or delay a bit.

Just to recap: you get a hunger craving; most likely this is your body reminding you that you ate at this time yesterday. Maybe it’s time to start looking for food again. What if you ate yesterday at 8am, 12pm, snack at 2:30pm, dinner at 6pm, ice cream before bed at 9pm. Today you will get all those reminders again. Expect it. Be ready for it. Have a plan for it if you want to fast through it. 

Another often confused signal is thirst. Are you really hungry or are you just thirsty? Let’s assume its 10am, that’s not a time that we ate yesterday, so it’s likely not our Circadian reminder. Drink some water first. Make sure you are hydrated. Often, we are either dehydrated or, closely related, we have a shortage of electrolytes like sodium and potassium. This manifest in our bodies with a signal to your brain. It is easy to misinterpret this as a hunger signal. Drink some water. 

There are many reasons for hunger signals, but the final one we will look at today is: BOREDOM. Maybe this means that you are sitting on the couch watching TV and you commonly snack on popcorn during your show. You aren’t hungry for popcorn. Watching a big sports game is another scenario where we often associate an activity with food and may experience a reminder. You’re watching the Gators play football… Why aren’t you eating pizza? Possibly a personal example there. Social events like parties have the same effect.

Strategy: I am feeling like I should eat…

Step 1 – Did I eat at this time yesterday? Can I press through another hour or so until this feeling passes? Drink some black coffee or unsweetened teas to help keep your mind off of the signal. 

Step 2 – Am I hydrated and do I have plenty of electrolytes? I will make another post to outline how I ensure that I have enough sodium and potassium. Drink water!

Step 3 – Am I bored? Can I do a different activity to take my mind off of this? If you are on your couch, try going for a walk. If you are at work, perhaps put on some music or sip some coffee. 

I hope some of these options will help you understand what you are feeling and allow you to get through your fast.  

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